Q: On the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China, how do you see its prospects?
A: Hong Kong had a great start with the resumption of sovereignty in 1997. In fact the future looks even brighter because a lot of the initiatives coming from the mainland have in the past indicated that China has used Hong Kong as a platform to engage in investment, and that goes both ways. And in the future I see that it will be even more exciting because of the One Belt, One Road [initiative].
Hong Kong is at the heart of the Marine Silk Road and the Silk Road Economic Belt. Right now we are coming up with a platform so that trade and investment can channel through Hong Kong. We usually take a financial role, but I think we are more than that: we are the free flow of information, and Hong Kong has been ranked the freest economy in the world by the Heritage Foundation for 21 years in a row thanks to low taxes and our simple tax system. So that is something we are looking at. Obviously we partner with other cities and provinces in China and come up with a great platform for these trades and investments.
Q: In relation to the One Belt, One Road initiative, can you tell me a little more about connectivity and how Hong Kong is being linked with China and even the hinterlands?
A: One of the latest developments in China is high-speed rail, and Hong Kong will be linked with this system. I took a train ride from Wuhan to Hong Kong two months ago 9covering 920 kilometres], and it took me five hours. With all the international flight delays, imagine if you could be certain of just arriving at your destination by high-speed rail. That would really connect people and have a profound implication on commerce and investment in Greater China. Hong Kong is right on the doorstep of that.
Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia are all now engaging in infrastructure projects, and Hong Kong has the expertise. A lot of our people are engaged in helping these infrastructure projects. So once these are built, the connectivity in Asia will be on a scale that has never been seen before.
Q: What do you see as the main threats to Hong Kong’s economic and competitive position?
A: I think we are very susceptible to the external environment because we are such an open and free economy. Trade is very much in our blood. Long-haul tourism in the European and American market has been weakened so we've seen visitor numbers decline. In exports we are very much affected by the European and American situation. We've see a bit of upsurge right now from the American side, but Europe is still quite weak. You could probably gauge the situation by just looking at the Greek situation right now, so I think that it will remain soft.
I think that would be the threat because we are so susceptible to the external environment. The bright side to that is that the Chinese market is still quite stable and still on an upswing. We're talking about 7% or 8% growth and that is still pretty good by any standard. So that is why I am cautiously optimistic; cautious because of the American and European situation but optimistic about mainland China and south-east Asia.